General opinion in the Ozarks seems to be that a farmer cannot sell a gallon of raw milk – “it’s illegal.” In most cases that seems to be true, but not because of regulations by the State Milk Board. The fact is that not all, but most dairy farmers selling to a cooperative have an agreement to sell all the milk produced on the farm, not used for his or her home consumption,  to the cooperative.
“It is legal to sell raw milk, a buyer can go to the farm and buy milk,” said Karen Prescott, Environmental Health Administrator for the Springfield/Greene County Health Department and chair for the State Milk Board. But there are some stipulations, one main: The transaction must take place between the milk producer and the buyer. “It’s a buyer beware situation.”
A dairy farmer wanting to sell raw milk by the gallon would first need to check his contract with the coop currently marketing his milk. There are two ways to sell raw milk. The preferred way would be to sell regulated Grade A raw milk. This involves jumping several hurdles to become graded and licensed. The farm has to have a Grade A milk barn, and a separate facility to bottle the milk. Bruce Salisbury, owner of Lorenae Dairy, has been selling regulated raw milk for about six months. He deals with the State Milk Board in Greene County for lab work, and four inspectors. Salisbury also sells cheddar cheese curds and is a grader/tester himself. A person selling regulated raw milk is permitted to sell at the farmers market in Springfield and to deliver. Because of the 1999 Missouri Food Code, not all markets allow the sale of regulated raw milk.
To sell regulated raw milk, a farmer would need to consider how to get the milk from the bulk tank to the bottling room and what bottles to use. Also he or she would need to learn how best to cool, store and market the milk. He or she would need to contact the state milk board for guidelines on selling raw milk. Salisbury uses disposable plastic milk jugs.
Unregulated raw milk is to be sold only on the farm. Some recent controversy has been caused by unregulated farmers trying to set up distribution centers. There is also the possibility of a food borne illness being traced back to the milk producer and there could be liability if the seller is proven negligent.
Prescott added, “The Health Department would never advocate drinking raw milk.” She noted that a person wanting to buy raw milk should check the farm out, because milk can cause some illnesses. The quality of milk can vary a great deal, especially in terms of bacteria. “About a year and a half ago there was a case where raw goats milk made two children sick, and they’re now in for a lifetime of complications,” said Prescott, adding, “There was a lawsuit involved.”
There are those who disagree with there being any danger in drinking raw milk. Many people believe that local raw milk will alleviate some problems associated with allergies. Most people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk without the side effects caused by pasteurized milk. Raw milk is richer and to some, just plain tastes better.
There are currently three permitted Grade A retail raw milk operations in Missouri. The number of individuals selling unregulated milk is unknown. Buying or selling unregulated raw milk has already proven to cause the dairy industry many headaches and public relations scandals. Dairy farmers wanting to expand their options to include selling raw milk need to do their homework.


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